PEABODY — Sometimes sports is so much more than winning or losing.
On an extremely emotional evening, the Peabody High football team soundly defeated visiting Salem, 52-0, Friday night at Coley Lee Field in its opening game of the season.
Truth be told, the Tanners were playing for a higher cause – they were playing for one of their own.
The Tanners dedicated to the game to the memory of Eveyln Pinto, mother of freshman football player Will Pinto and Peabody High senior Bianca Pinto. She was killed Aug. 31 in a tragic car accident that left her husband, William, in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“This was so much more than football, (Thursday) was the wake and we must have had every player and most of our coaches there to support Will and Bianca and their family,” said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt. “The dedication of this game to their mother came from the kids and they played with their hearts. I mean they played good football, but there was so much emotion.”
After a moment of silence was observed in their mother’s memory, Will and Bianca Pinto served as honorary captains for the coin toss, won by Peabody.
After deferring, the Tanners scored on their first play from scrimmage, a 50-yard run by Nick Vecchio (3 carries, 65 yards). After a defensive stop, Peabody punted on its next possession, but its third possession was deja vu, with Angel Paulino (6 carries, 91 yards) taking the first snap from quarterback Alex DeNisco (10-of-16, 132 yards, 4 touchdowns) and scampering 28 yards into the end zone to bump the lead to 14-0. Peabody kept its foot on the gas in the second quarter. Joe Swanton, who was a perfect 7-of-7 on extra points, split the uprights with a field goal from 37 yards out on the Tanners’ fourth possession to make it 17-0.
But Peabody wasn’t done yet. DeNisco closed out the first half with a pair of touchdown strikes to Dylan Peluso (16 yards) and Colby Therrien (28 yards) to go into halftime leading 31-0.
Paulino exploded up the middle from 43 yards on Peabody’s first possession of the second half, then Jonathan Teixeira hauled in a 13-yard reception from DeNisco to make it 45-0 heading into the final 12 minutes.
But the best was yet to come.
The loudest cheer of the night came with about six minutes left when Pinto entered the game. With the Tanners on the Witches’ 24-yard line, Pinto (4 carries, 24 yards) took the ball the rest of the way, the final into the end zone from about five yards out, much to the delight of the fans.
“Near the end of the game, the kids were saying, ‘Coach, you just have to get Will into the game.’ That means so much that the kids realize the crisis that family is in and they want to do what they can to make things better,” said Bettencourt. “It’s not just winning or losing football games, it’s about the life that has been unfairly thrust in their faces.”
Peabody visits Revere next Friday (6:30).